Sunday, April 09, 2006

A week of new animes: 30 short reviews

Whew, what a week. This is apparently the biggest anime season ever, with 50 new shows. Impossible to keep up with. I did all too well in the first week, sacrificing real life to anime.

Some people are very picky about their animes. The vast majority of shows don’t make the grade. But I enjoy almost every show I watch. There is a lot of talent in the anime professions in Japan. My favorite genres are josei, shoujo, moé, absurd comedy, and sf. My least favorite are mecha and anything that bases its appeal on fights. So your mileage may certainly vary.

Here goes: a week of the new season’s broadcasts, day by day. My favorites in red:

Saiunkoku Monogatari — Beautiful pseudo-medieval-China setting, good script, and great voice-acting from Kuwashima Houko. Josei historical comedy-drama. (Sat 09:00)

Fushigiboshi no Futagohime Gyu! — Gotou Yuuko as a two-foot-tall magic princess for the win. Enjoyable tension-free show apparently aimed at five-year-olds. (Sat 10:00)

Shoujo Changeum no Yume — Changeum is a young girl in old Korea whose dream is to cook as well as her deceased mother and bring people happiness through her food. She is also a bit of a supergirl. What can you say about an anime whose most powerful emotional moment is when the protagonist realizes that people love her cooking. Different and enjoyable. (Sat 19:30)

Himawari! — Very sympathetic main character: a girl with a special past who wants to study at a ninja school. Interesting group of female fellow-students and a nice run of semi-supernatural ninja feats. But I felt as if it was missing something. (Sat 24:30)

Soul Link — Cliché-filled comedy-drama in space from the makers of Shuffle! It could become quite interesting and could just fall flat. I liked the characters, even if I did have trouble following who was who. Nothing really happens until the very end of episode 2. (Sat 25:35)

Yoshinaga-san’chi no Gargoyle — Saitou Chiwa is good as the uber-violent comic child, the Gargoyle itself is an intriguing character, and the story has a smidgen of depth. But the first episode just didn’t do much for me. (Sat 26:05)

Yume Tsukai — Few of the weirder elements of the manga were evident in episode 1. What’s left is a very well made story with excellent character design and animation, but no strong center…yet. (Sat 26:30)

Black Lagoon — Action. Guns. Modern-day pirates. A corrupt corporation. The Russian mafia. And Toyoguchi Megumi as a hard-drinking, hard-shooting pirate cowgirl. Well directed and well animated. Excellent OP. But just not my deal. (Sat 26:35)

Kiba — Alienated teen fighter in a future dystopia breaks through to a magic world. A decent start. We’ll see where it goes. (Sun 08:30)

Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu — The first episode is an instant classic, completely unique and uniquely hilarious. Gotou Yuuko as a none-too-clever “combat waitress from outer space” for the win. Highly regarded both in Japan and overseas. (Sun 24:00)

Simoun — Not just a yuri-fest, but also solid SF/fantasy with real human feelings and a plot. And great CG of amazing yuri-powered flying machines. (Sun 25:30)

Joshi Kousei Girls’ High — Nobody but me seems to like this. Blatant fanservice and gross details of life at a girls’ high school. But very good voice-acting and some developing relationships and personalities. And I know there’s lots more comedy to come. (Mon 25:30)

Utawarerumono — A promising comedy/drama with effective characters, beginning in a village of fox-people in medieval Japan. Yuzuki Ryoka (Minagi in AIR) as the first of two bewitching fox girls to appear this season (the other is in Inukami!). (Mon 26:40)

Strawberry Panic — The yuriest anime ever made for guys. Nakahara Mai, Shimizu Ai, Saitou Chiwa, Nabatame Hitomi, et al., do great work in a blatant homage to the far more serious show Marimite. Highly enjoyable. (Mon 26:45)

Gintama — A run-down detective agency in an Edo ruled by aliens. Crazy-funny in spurts. Good work from Sugita Tomokazu and Kugimiya Rie. (Tue 19:00)

Makai Senki Disgaea — A lovely innocent chibi angel starts a constantly-pissed-off little devil on his journey to the upper world. The angel is great, but the devil, who is the star, could get very old. Disappointing to fans of the manga. (Tue 24:15)

Ouran High School Host Club — One of the hits of the season. Good anime version of a well-known manga. Sakamoto Maaya is fabulous as the star, a girl mistaken for a guy, who is drafted into a private school’s “host club,” where glamorous guys entertain girls to tea. (Tue 25:10)

Air Gear — A determined young goofball refuses to back down from punks and is beaten up again and again until he learns to air-skate, with the help of some great-skater girls. Solid first episode that one viewer called the funniest anime episode he’s ever seen. Not that good, but decent. (Tue 25:00)

Love Game CHU ~ Miracle Seiyuu Hakusho — Undistinguished first episode about five girls at an audition for seiyuu training. But the voice-acting is good, the set-up has possibilities, and I will watch anything about seiyuus. (Tue 25:30)

MagiPoka ~ Renkin San-kyuu Majikaru(?) Poka~n — Supremely cute young vampire, witch, werewolf and android live together in the cutest house in the forest, and have various misadventures. No real plot, but who needs one with character design and voice-acting that are this cute and this moé? (Tue 25:30)

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni — Mysterious and threatening plot played out against a sunny small-town background. The first episode did not grab me, but this anime adaptation of a famous audio-novel has been eagerly awaited in Japan, so I’ll keep watching. (Tue 26:40; the red "Na" is part of the show's lore.)

Garasu no Kantai — Is this a boring and poorly animated rehash of other space operas? Maybe, but I was still captivated by the atmosphere and the plot. (Tue 26:40)

NANA — Wonderful anime version of the supremely popular Yazawa Ai manga for young women. One of my two favorite shows of the first week, along with Suzumiya Haruhi. Sensitive adaptation that preserves the look and feel of the manga. The voice-acting is not great, but it works. (Wed 23:25)

Inukami! — Horie Yui is excellent as the bushy-tailed fox-girl who has a locked collar on her horny boyfriend, and magically disrobes him in public whenever his eyes roam. Unfortunately, Hocchan was the only thing that kept me watching. Many otaku in Japan consider this the best show of the new season, so it deserves attention. (Wed 25:00)

Witchblade — Another Gonzo harsh adventure in urban dystopia. But I enjoyed the first episode. Mamiko Noto expands her range as the star, a desperate single mom who can turn into a bladed monster on the side of good. (Wed 25:45)

RAY the Animation — Nogawa Sakura makes me believe in the woman who was raised as an involuntary organ donor on a baby-farm and had her eyes taken, then replaced by a great surgeon with x-ray eyes. Much more entertaining than I expected. Set in the world of Black Jack. (Wed 25:15)

.hack//ROOTS — Wonderful animation from Bee Train. Nazuka Kaori (Erisu-chan in Canvas2, Eureka in Eureka) as Shino is terrific. And unlike fans of the series, I liked the music from Ali Project. But the stories in this franchise have never reached me, and this is no exception. (Wed 25:30)

Princess Princess — So this good-looking young guy is sent to a private boys' school where he discovers that the best-looking boys dress up as girls, becoming honored “princesses.” Strange situation, but the characters made sense to me and I actually enjoyed it. Not really yaoi. Fans of the manga seem to hate the anime. (Wed 27:10)

Zegapain — (Thu 18:00)

xxxHOLiC — Well-made Clamp anime with good character design, backgrounds, music, animation, and characters. I thought the main guy was too silly sometimes, but the witch who ensorcels him was fabulous and the plot appears to have some depth. We’ll find out. (Thu 25:25)

Kirarin Revolution — The surprise hit of the season for me. Witty family fare starring a cute teen who loves to chow down. Great chibi drooling alternates with supreme cuteness. She falls in love with an idol and pushes herself on stage to become an idol herself. Wonderful animal mascot rides on her head wherever she goes. (Fri 18:00)

Good Witch of the West — Orikasa Fumiko strikes again. Fine characterization of the country girl who receives a pendant on her 16th birthday from her long-dead mother, whose name she never knew. Suddenly she is involved in the aristocrats’ palace intrigues. Very promising adaptation of a popular fantasy novel. (Fri 25:45)

Dai Mahou Touge— If you liked Dokuro-chan, you'll love Punie-chan. A cute princess is sent to Earth for a year, as training for becoming a queen. She revels in the beauteous Earth that will soon be all hers. Her magic destroys all opposition, her charm seduces all guys. She transforms with the cry: "Lyrical Tokarev, kill them all." Totally hilarious if you liked Puni Puni Poemi or Dokuro. Stupid and disgusting if you did not. (irregular OAV series)

Note: Shows I plan to get around to are included without reviews. No second-season shows included. Spring anime calendar.


Anonymous said...

Looks like i have found somone with much the same taste as me


wontaek said...

Glad that you liked Saiunkoku Monogatari. This is my new favorite of the season, replacing Haruhi.

Zappster said...

Disgaea does not have a manga as far as I'm aware. It was based on a fairly successful RPG released on the PS2 by Nippon Ichi. So when you're talking about fans' disappointment, it will be fans of the game. Small thing I know, just thought I'd point it out though.